Are Your Friends Helping or Holding You Back?

Many a good thing starts when your flatmate comes home at 2 am.

Case in point, a couple of days ago. I was beavering away, having just got up. He walks in, and asks what I’m doing at this ungodly hour. I reply, “Just doin’ some work. See, I’m testing out a new sleep schedule where I only sleep 4 hours a day.”

Upon hearing this, he goes on to say how he loves my crazy experimenting ways.

He went upstairs, and returned toting a cardboard box. “Open it”, he told me, then scarpered for the kitchen. I love a surprise, so I did, and out came six caps. Not just any caps mind. These were super cool, ethnic caps from his home town of Nayarit, México.

He came back, and asked me what I thought. “Got some damn cool caps there, sonny.” I replied.

(Ok, I didn’t say sonny.)

He smiled, and proceeded to explain how this was his first investment, and was planning to sell said caps to tourists here in Ensenada.

I was impressed. Damn, I love this guy’s energy! What an idea! His plans make me excited. His action motivates my action. His ideas inspire me, and make me want to do more in my life.

This is what’s amazing when you’re surrounded by people with energy.  Their zest becomes your zest. Their energy becomes your energy. You build off each other’s ideas and creativity, and you spur each other on to greater heights. When someone around you is becoming the strongest version of themselves, a little bit of it can’t help but rub off on you.

This has happened time and time again in my life. And each time it happens, I’m reminded of this Jim Rohn quote:

You are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with.”

Take my best friend and flatmate at university. I studied physics, he studied philosophy and business management. After living with him for three years, guess what my favourite topics are? Practical philosophy and entrepreunership.

He introduced me to TED talks, and his favourite book The Alchemist. I am now a rabid fan of TED, and The Alchemist is my bible. He’s from Japan, so he was studying abroad in Scotland. Guess what I did? Studied abroad. He took football seriously, I took triathlon seriously. I read in my spare time, he read in his spare time. I went through a cooking phase, he went through a cooking phase.

As time went on, we became more similar. It was almost spooky. When one of our mutual friends asked him whether he believes in determinism vs. free thought, he explained that he kinda believes in both. To an outsider, it wouldn’t make sense. But I knew exactly what he meant. Maktub.

Here’s some other examples:

  • After spending a week with the strongest athlete in the triathlon club on a training trip, I started to speak and act like him.
  • 3 months working in Madrid, I took on my boss’s weird facial expressions.
  • My amazing friends from Canada: I started addressing people as “sir”, added “super” and “gander” to my vocabulary. My sense of humour changed also.

I spent a week walking around Islay with a good friend. It was intense – camping, no paths, heavy packs and knee-high heather. On the trip, we had a lively debate on the meaning of manliness, the difference between men and women, and whether a guy should have friends that are girls. Our opinions were polar opposites. I came away completely disagreeing with him. Yet now, I’ve realised that I’ve gravitated towards a middle ground.

The best example is an amazing friend I made in my final year of university. On weekends, we’d go walking with weighted backpacks into the countryside, and talk deep things. What I admired most about him was his lack of inhibition. To this day, I’ve never met such a free spirit.

And after spending time with him, I became less inhibited. I started wearing weird stuff to lectures, dancing in the gym, going to celiedhs and asking people out on dates. I became more like him.

Who You Surround Yourself With is a Choice

The people who surround you matter. They are shaping your life, whether you like it or not. It’s your responsibility to choose those people.

Most of us don’t choose at all. Circumstance makes the choice for us.

But as James Allen says in As A Man Thinketh,

“Circumstances do not reveal the man, they only reveal him to himself.”

If you’ve “ended up” with your group of friends, what do they tell you about yourself?

The sould attracts that which it secretly harbours; that which it loves, and also that which it fears; it reaches the height of its cherished aspirations; it falls to the level of its unchastened desires,- and circumstances are the means by which the soul recieves its own.”

If you’re a negative person, chances are you’ll attract more negative people into your life. Then it becomes a vicious cycle, because negative people make you even more negative.

Looking at who we attract into our lives is the easiest way to look at your own. So what quality of people are you attracting into yours? What do they say about you?

Then compare with who you want to become. If the people surrounding you aren’t congruent with your ideal-self, then you need to surround yourself with new people. Period.

Two people will very rarely remain at different levels for long. So when you start rising, and travelling on the path to becoming the strongest version of yourself, two things could happen.

First, your friends could drag you down to their level. These are the people you want to cut from your life.

Second, your friends want to rise with you. These are the people you want to keep in your life.

The first is a source of destruction. The second is a source of growth. And that, I believe, is a good yardstick to measure if someone is worth having as a friend.

But Iain, isn’t that cold-blooded? Negative people need help! You heartless bastard, Iain!

Some people genuinely need your help. So here’s the question I invite you to ask of the people who surround you.

Do they want to help themselves?

If the answer’s yes, awesome. But if the answer’s no, there’s nothing you can do. Get rid of them.

Awareness is Power

Awareness of “you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with” ironically inoculates you (somewhat) against the effects of negative people.

When you’re aware of the toxic effects of negativity, your mind puts up safeguards to block these people out of your life.

Likewise, when you know the incredible effect of positive people, your brain amplifies the effect these people have on you.

In this way, if you know who you want to become, you’ll naturally gravitate away from people you don’t want, and towards people you do. Sometimes you don’t need to cut people from your live, they drift away naturally.

The problem is when natural drifts can’t happen. For example, a colleague, or someone on the sports-team, or even a family member. They’re sticking around, so you need to actively create some space.

Sometimes, you just need to spend less time with certain people, or explaining to them where you’re going in life, and what you’re no longer willing to accept.

“Any time you sincerely want to make a change, the first thing you must do is to raise your standards.” ~ Tony Robbins

Ultimately, be aware of the effects others have on you. Know that who you surround yourself with is a choice.

What if Harry had made friends with Malfoy on that first day?  The destiny of the entire wizarding world would have changed. Yet he CHOSE the type of person he wanted to hang out with, and it all ended happily every after.

(He marries Ron’s sister too.)

So, I leave you with one question and one question only.

Who are the five people you’re choosing to spend the most time with?


As Always,

Dream Big Start Small!

Mucho amor,